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Losing Time

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Shimmering points of light scattered across the night sky in a graceful arc.  He searched for familiar clusters like Cassiopeia, Pegasus, or Hercules but chided himself only seeing the abstract picture.  


Skyland Mountain sighed a subtle breeze and Mulder slowly let it filter through his nose and lungs.  He needed to come back.  She was taken.  Taken by a desperate madman then given away.  And he let it happen.  He closed his eyes and listened to the white noise of the mountain as he gently wound the chain of gold in his pocket around his index finger.  The demure cross pressed into the palm of his hand like a talisman, grounding him to this unfortunate reality.  His fingers released and slowly unwound the chain, working back up the miniature links as if praying on the rosary.  Admittedly a tactile person he figured if he kept holding on to the gold lifeline he could still somehow reach her.


Another breeze flowed over the hilltop, rustling the treeline.  Mulder felt a damp chill roll across his shoulders and he pulled his jacket close.  There was nothing more he could do tonight, even though his irrational mind told him to lay down on the wet grass and she would return in the morning.  


Why her?   Why her and not me?


Mulder trekked back to his car and started the engine.  The dim green clock on the console read 11:45 p.m.  He lost time.  After meeting with her mother he couldn’t stay in the city.  He headed west towards the Blue Ridge Parkway and kept driving, retracing his steps, hoping to find something, anything that he might have missed. Maybe he should have checked deeper into the woods, she’s smart she would have stayed hidden until she thought it was safe.  Mulder’s hands slid to the top of the steering wheel and his grip tightened.  For a moment he rested his forehead against white knuckle fists. 


He was exhausted.  Mulder pushed back in his seat, shifted the car into gear, and traversed the road back to civilization.  He found a second wind by the time he reached Loudoun County around 2 am and became restless on the remainder of the drive into Arlington.  After parking at his building he took a walk down the block and found a 24 hour market that carried his brand of vodka.  


The elevator pinged and heavy doors slid open exposing a vacant hallway.  Mulder shifted the brown bag in his hand to reach the keys that were buried in his jacket pocket.  


Click .  


He jammed the key into the lock. The angry flip of the deadbolt echoed in the hall.  He tossed the keys on the coffee table and sat the brown bag down long enough to remove his jacket and turn on the TV.  He unsheathed the crystal clear bottle and swiftly unscrewed the cap.  The first sip caught his attention, but he knew that he could do better.  The next provided a wonderful burn at the back of his throat but he could still taste the guilt. 


Mulder paced a winding trail from room to room as he sipped from the vodka bottle.  His gaze fell on the answering machine next to the phone. Shit. Her voice entered his head, the fear and panic burrowed into his eardrums while she screamed his name. He squeezed his eyes shut and felt tears prick at the corners but he couldn’t block out her screams. Over and over pleading, begging for his help. Another swig of vodka would drown it out.  He felt the room shift sideways and managed to place the bottle on a table before stumbling to the bathroom. He fell to his knees and violently released the contents of his stomach. A scorched sob caught in his throat and he leaned against the wall, running the back of his hand across burning eyes.  He was down for the count.  The corners of his mouth pulled and tightened as a silent cry escaped his lips.  He gasped for air and let his head rhythmically fall back against the wall.  


I have to find her.  I won’t give up.